Published October 4, 2023

This summer, Hannah Catherine Allport joined the Virginia Humanities team as the new associate director of corporate & foundation relations. Hannah Catherine comes to us with a wealth of marketing and corporate fundraising experience including with the Virginia High School League, the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks, and the London-based sports marketing firm AFCC.  

We caught up with her to talk about what the humanities and sports have in common, her past life teaching theater and dance, and what she loves most about Charlottesville.  

Photo by Pat Jarrett/Virginia Humanities

You’ve got a lot of experience as a fundraiser, especially in athletics. What do the humanities and sports have in common? How are they different?  

On the surface, humanities and sports may seem worlds apart, but both are entrenched in our culture. Humanities explore our history and cultural aspects of society while sports often reflect cultural values and traditions. Both generate narratives and stories, as well as discussions about ethics and values, and there can be strong emotions tied to all those things. In almost every scenario, both sports and the humanities bring people together for something that is bigger than themselves.   

You taught theater and dance at James Madison University for a decade. What was the most rewarding thing about teaching?

Many people talk about teaching as a way to impact lives and reach other generations, but honestly (and selfishly), I used my experience teaching college students as a way to harness their energy. While working full-time and raising children, I simultaneously taught dance at JMU and frequently dragged my children to the other side of the mountain while doing it.  Though physically exhausting, it was exhilarating to dance and perform with 19- and 20-year-olds regularly. 

A lot of our readers are pretty familiar with fundraising, or at least they’re used to us asking for their support. (BTW, don’t forget to make a gift during National Arts and Humanities Month!) But what exactly is corporate and foundation relations? 

Corporate and foundation relations, much like it sounds, involves seeking financial support from companies and foundations and connecting them to the good work that Virginia Humanities does. Not only is it an opportunity for a business to get their name in front of attendees at the Virginia Festival of the Book or in the ears of With Good Reason listeners, but involvement can also translate to an opportunity to do a company-wide book read and explore a topic like human communication in the workplace. 

And, without a doubt, supporting Virginia Humanities helps all citizens better understand the human experience, appreciate diverse perspectives, and develop communication and critical thinking skills — all of which lead to more capable, engaged employees and greater innovations. 

You’ve dedicated a lot of your professional life to working with nonprofit organizations. Why is this work so important to you? 

I’m a big believer in collaboratively doing good work that you could not easily do on your own. When I worked in the NBA, I described it as, “fun, but only fun.” None of us were saving the world. Working at a non-profit allows you to make a meaningful impact in important areas and to join forces with others — staff, donors, and volunteers — who care about the same mission. 

You’ve lived in Charlottesville for a while. What’s your favorite tourist site? Where do you take visitors when they come?

I love living so close to the mountains and mountain streams. After friends have seen Monticello and the downtown mall, and we’ve enjoyed a coffee milkshake at the MooThru, I’ll take them out for a hike. I’ve dragged multitudes of friends to Old Rag and we have braved the rock scrambles and soaked in the views during every different season and all kinds of weather. 

Vanessa Adkins, right, is apprenticing under her cousin Jessica Canaday Stewart learning the finer points of traditional Chickahominy dancing. Photos taken at the Fall Festival and Pow Wow in Charles City on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.

Our work brings people together and honors our shared humanity.